Associated Press Photo
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (Sports Network) - After going into Tuscaloosa last week and taking down the nation's top-ranked team, the ninth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies step out of conference this week to host the Sam Houston State Bearkats.
Sam Houston has put together an impressive campaign in the lower rungs of college football, going 8-2, with one of its losses coming against Baylor back in September (48-23). The Bearkats currently rank No. 3 in The Sports Network FCS Top-25 poll.
Texas A&M got out to a 20-0 lead over Alabama in the first quarter, and although the Tide climbed their way back, A&M's defense came up with a few key stops down the stretch as the team shocked the college football world by winning, 29-24.
"It is exciting," head coach Kevin Sumlin said following the big win. "I am happiest for the seniors and the experienced players that have been through a lot in their careers. You think about it, they came to Texas A&M and probably never thought about playing at Alabama for a regular season game...To come in here and play them with them being number one in the country, and us being a part of the conference, it is just a tribute to those guys."
The Aggies have won three straight games, all on the road, to sky-rocket to No. 9 in the latest AP poll.
Texas A&M has never lost to Sam Houston State, going 10-0-1 all-time. The teams have only met once in the last 70 years, with A&M winning back in 1997, 59-6.
Sam Houston State's offense (46.2 ppg) has been explosive as far as FCS squads are concerned, averaging 294.3 rushing and 196.0 passing yards per game.
Tim Flanders has shined as the Bearkats' feature back by gaining 1,087 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns. Keshawn Hill has nearly 100 fewer carries, but he has shown plenty of big-play ability with 449 yards and six scores.
The potent rushing attack has helped Brian Bell put together a solid season under center, as he has completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,883 yards while tossing 18 touchdowns against only six interceptions.
Trey Diller (45 reception, 671 yards, three TDs) is Bell's favorite target as he has more than twice as many receptions as anyone else on the team, but Chance Nelson (478 yards, 21.7 ypc) is an outstanding deep threat and has caught seven touchdowns.
A stout defense (16.2 ppg, 283.7 ypg) has allowed the Bearkats to be on the positive end of many blowout victories.
Bookie Sneed has recorded four of the team's 12 interceptions and has batted down another eight passes. Darnell Taylor has a team-high 67 tackles, and Darius Taylor (five sacks, 13.5 TFL) has made a habit of making plays in the backfield.
Texas A&M ranks in the top-five nationally in both scoring offense (43.1 ppg) and total offense (545.4 ypg), thanks in no small part to the play of its outstanding freshman quarterback.
Johnny Manziel made the seemingly invincible Alabama defense look lackluster at best week ago, as he torched them for 253 passing yards, 92 rushing yards, and two touchdowns in a performance that catapulted him into the center of the Heisman race.
"No moment is too big for him," Sumlin said of his standout freshman. "I don't think (the pressure) bothers him too much."
"Johnny Football," as he's called, has put up video game-like numbers this season, with 2,780 passing yards, 1,014 rushing yards, and 33 total touchdowns against only six interceptions.
With 11 receptions last week, Ryan Swope became the program's all-time leader in receptions, passing Jeff Fuller's old mark of 233. He has caught 56 balls for 752 yards on the season, although both numbers fall short of Mike Evans' team-highs 61 receptions for 842 yards.
Although Manziel is the team's top rushing threat, his presence has made things a lot easier for Ben Malena (687 yards, six TDs) and Christine Michael (348 yards, 10 TDs) to make plays out of the backfield.
Overlooked during Texas A&M's fantastic run this season has been the sound play of its defense, as it allows just 21.3 ppg on fewer than 383 ypg.
Not only does Damontre Moore have an SEC-best 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, but he is also the team-leader in total stops with 74. The Aggies haven't forced many turnovers (11 in 10 games), but Steven Terrell and Deshazor Everett have recorded two picks apiece.